With winter well and truly on its way, there’s no time like the present to start supporting your child’s immune system to help ward off all the colds, flus and nasties coming this way, threatening to disrupt all of your daily routines and weekend plans. Children are especially vulnerable to colds and sickness bugs at this time of year and so giving their immune system a well needed boost can really pay off in the longer term.
Food is the foundation
For our immune systems to be strong, they must firstly be fed the vital nutrients they need to function well. This means making sure your kids have as varied a diet as possible with plenty of wholefoods and wholegrains, fresh fruit and veg, high quality protein (from beans, pulses, eggs, fish and meat) and healthy fats (from nuts, seeds and oily fish). Antioxidant vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, C & E, zinc and selenium are crucial for a healthy immune system, and are found in abundance in fruits and vegetables. Our bodies need protein in order to make antibodies and other immune cells, so making sure their diet contains a variety of high quality protein sources is a must in order to ensure a good degree of protection.
D is for Defence
There’s been a lot of talk in the media in recent years about the importance of vitamin D for healthy immune function, with government guidelines now recommending that we take a daily supplement of vitamin D. But is all the hype much ado about nothing?
Vitamin D is the hormone that we produce in response to direct sunlight. It contributes to optimal immune function by helping to activate T-cells which form part of our frontline defence and help fight infection within the body. But because most of us aren’t exposed to enough sunlight – especially in the winter months – many of us have low levels of vitamin D, and that inevitably includes children. The vitamin D council recommends supplementing with 1,000 iu vitamin D daily per 25lbs of body weight for children. Ideally this should be as vitamin D3, the body’s preferred form.
Feeding the microbiome
Although probiotics are probably not the first thing that spring to mind when you think about supporting your immune system, more and more information is surfacing about the importance of reinforcing the gut microbiome in order to protect and strengthen our immune system. Probiotics are the friendly bacteria that occur naturally in our gut and help to keep our digestive system functioning properly. They also help to protect us against invading bacteria and viruses. Numerous species of bacteria grow together synergistically in the gut to support optimal healthy bacterial balance in the large intestine, and you can help to encourage a healthy microbiome in your children by supplementing with a good range of healthy bacteria containing lactobacillus and bifidobacteria strains.
Essential Omega 3s
Aside from specifically supporting the immune system, looking after your child’s general health and emotional wellbeing will also have a positive impact on their ability to fight off the baddies. In addition to healthy sources of protein and carbohydrate, good nourishment also means ensuring your child is getting enough essential fatty acids – normally obtained through eating nuts, seeds and fish. Good levels of omega-3 are essential for children’s growing bodies, especially their brains, and have been proven in thousands of clinical trials to be good for hearts, eyes and to help keep joints and skin healthy. These levels can be conveniently topped up by taking a good quality omega-3 supplement and jelly supplements are ideal for kids who don’t like the taste of fish and fish oil. Nutri Advanced’s Eskimo-3 Bright Kids chewy jelly splats are a delicious natural orange flavour that’s the perfect taste for little ones and only one jelly splat is needed each day to get the great levels of Omega-3 for normal healthy brain function.
Nutritional information provide by Katherine Pardo Bsc (Hons).
Katherine is a Nutrition Team Manager at Nutri Advanced, where she now heads up a team of nutritionists, writers and researchers. Together they develop Nutri’s range of innovative products, programmes and educational resources. Katherine has nearly 20 years’ experience in the industry.
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